• Canadian Grand Prix - Preview

Let battle recommence

Nate Saunders
June 5, 2014
Lewis Hamilton previews the Canadian Grand Prix

The title fight finally turned ugly in Monte Carlo. After what happened in Monaco it is inevitable the focus going into Canada will be around the Mercedes drivers - one of them will be world champion at the end of the season, but at what cost remains to be seen. In truth the developing rift between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is just what 2014 needed; turning an entirely predictable year into one of genuine intrigue, loaded with potential drama. The next chapter will be written in Montreal, while behind Mercedes, Red Bull looks likely to be challenged for the scraps left behind.

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In form

Nico Rosberg swung the pendulum in his favour in Monaco, wrestling the initiative and the championship lead away from Lewis Hamilton in the process. Whether he can maintain his form on a track Hamilton has been dominant on in the past remains to be seen, but Rosberg's title hopes seemed to be slipping going into Monaco and he responded in fine style. His first on-track victory over Hamilton means he goes to Canada on a high. Daniel Ricciardo continued his impressive start at Red Bull in Monaco, recovering from a bad start to claim a second successive podium. It perhaps shows you how far the Australian has come that he said after the race he was disappointed to settle for third as his pursuit of Hamilton felt agonisingly short.

For all the talk of Ferrari being uncompetitive this season, Fernando Alonso's third place in the drivers' championship highlights why he is arguably the cream of the current crop. This season he has wrestled as much from the F14 T as seems possible and he has put himself in a good position to capitalise if Ferrari comes good this season. Honourable mention also needs to go to Alonso's friend and Ferrari prospect Jules Bianchi, who took Marussia's first points in Monaco with a superb drive to ninth. The aim for Marussia now is to build on its day in the limelight; the team has spoken about overtaking Sauber this season and that looks like a genuine possibility now.

Out of form

It is harsh given what happened to him Monaco, but Kimi Raikkonen is a man who arrives in Canada needing to beat his team-mate. He was on course to do that until the intervention of Max Chilton's Marussia behind the safety car, meaning he was denied the chance to show everyone he has not lost his spark behind the wheel. Sebastian Vettel is very much in the same boat as Raikkonen. Though he is doing his best to hide it, being beaten by a team-mate who had not finished higher than seventh before joining Red Bull must be devastating for a man who has dominated the sport since 2010. Aside from his podium in Malaysia, Vettel has looked second best in the Red Bull garage this season. Pastor Maldonado's start to life at Lotus has hardly been a bed of roses and he has been outperformed by Romain Grosjean when it matters this year. A fightback in Canada is needed, especially with that pesky reputation growing.

Further down the field Sauber must be looking anxiously over its shoulder. A double retirement in Monaco coincided with Bianchi's memorable point for Marussia, meaning the minnows overtook Sauber into ninth in the constructors' fight. Despite its significant aerodynamic upgrade for Barcelona Sauber has shown no real sign of progress in either of the last two races and must now be genuinely worried about being caught by a charging Marussia outfit which appears to have made gains in several areas.

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Ones to watch

Force India has traditionally been strongest on low-downforce circuits and given the consistency it has shown in 2014 that could set Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez up for a strong result. Hulkenberg has been one of the stand-out performers this year and, if Force India put its previous form to good use, he may well capitalise.

Talking points

"Je me souviens"

That translates as "I remember" and is the official motto of the state of Quebec, perfectly fitting for the host of a race where Lewis Hamilton's ability to move on from what happened in Monaco will be crucial to the result. The momentum Hamilton had going into Monte Carlo seemed to fade in qualifying after Nico Rosberg's late mistake in Q3, before evaporating completely in the race as Hamilton broadcasted his mini-meltdown over the radio for the watching world to hear. It seemed Hamilton had allowed conspiracy theory to cloud his mind and his judgement, even though he was arguably quicker than his team-mate. A chance to deal a crushing blow in the title race was squandered and Rosberg took full advantage.

If Monaco was a "Rosberg track", then the opposite is certainly true of Montreal. Since his maiden career victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 Hamilton has been sublime in Canada, winning on two further occasions (2010 and 2012) and finishing on the podium last season. By contrast Rosberg has never finished higher than fifth. This, more than anything else, should give Hamilton a chance to put things right on track, especially if he can use his perceived injustice as further motivation rather than allowing it to consume him as it did in Monaco.

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Signs of life needed at Maranello

Fernando Alonso was not being critical when he said Ferrari is yet to see a lift from Marco Mattiacci's arrival before the Monaco Grand Prix. But clearly the dream Alonso/Raikkonen combination and everyone who loves the team in red will not be content to see that continue much longer. The gap between Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo was eye-opening in Monte Carlo; Alonso was effectively in a race of his own, quicker than the rest but a long way off the only two teams Ferrari cares about challenging this year.

Last year Luca di Montezemolo argued the rules of the time were too heavily focused on refining aerodynamics rather than engine development. Ironic, then, that the team is reportedly chasing Adrian Newey, but also slightly embarrassing considering Ferrari is lagging behind the power unit of Mercedes after the new regulations effectively reset the playing field and placed the power back in the hands of the engine-makers. The Mattiacci appointment was a bold one given his limited experience in Formula One and Ferrari's current situation does not seem to favour a man who needs to learn on the job.

Eyes on Caterham

Reports in the direct aftermath of Monte Carlo suggested Tony Fernandes had put Caterham up for sale. It made sense, coming on the same weekend that Marussia scored points and while Fernandes was at London's Wembley Stadium watching his Queens Park Rangers enjoy the success of a return to the Premier League. Caterham quickly denied the claims, saying it is in fact looking for additional investment. Whatever is really happening, it seems to be a make-or-break time for Caterham, with Fernandes saying on the eve of the season he would need to see a step forward in 2014 to stay in F1. Investors are also hardly likely to join a sinking ship so the next few race weekends will be vital for Caterham and its future in the sport.

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Facts and stats

  • The venue was originally named the Ile Notre-Dame Circuit until the death of local hero Gilles Villeneuve in 1982, when it was renamed in time for that year's race
  • Michael Schumacher won seven times in Montreal in his career, four more than Nelson Piquet and Lewis Hamilton, his nearest rivals for the record
  • The driver starting on pole has won just under half the races in Montreal - with 15 victories from 34 races
  • The barrier on the exit of the final corner is known as the 'Wall of Champions' for the title-winning victims it has claimed over the years. The list includes Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Sebastian Vettel.


Lewis Hamilton's previous in Montreal means he is once again favourite for race victory at 4/9 with Nico Rosberg unsurprisingly his closest challenger at 2/1. Sauber's current woes are summarised nicely in odds of 10/1 for Adrian Sutil to be the first retirement, while Daniel Ricciardo is 8/1 to top Friday's opening practice session.

Weather forecast

At present it seems the prospect of race-altering rain is unlikely on the days when it really matters. Predictions of clouds on Sunday could develop into a larger threat nearer the race, but the initial forecast does little to suggest there is much chance of the weather putting Mercedes' dominance in doubt.

ESPNF1 prediction

Lewis Hamilton is the master of Montreal among the current crop and if he puts everything together over the weekend victory should be his. But he must be wary of his temperament, if he loses his cool again then Rosberg will be perfectly placed to pounce.